Then again, the Washington Nationals haven't been giving their supporters a lot to get excited about all season.
Benson allowed only one run in his sixth career complete game, and Baltimore beat Washington 5-1 Friday night in the first regular-season major league meeting between the cities since 1971.
"Nowadays, you see pitchers go four and five innings, and they consider that a good start," said Baltimore's Corey Patterson, whose two hits included an RBI triple. "For him to do that, I think is tremendous. It's a rarity."
Benson hadn't gone the distance since Sept. 14, 2004, for the Mets against the Braves. The last Orioles complete game came from Sidney Ponson on April 24, 2005.
And Benson (6-3) might not have been all that optimistic heading into Friday: He was 0-2 with an 8.53 ERA in four starts against Washington in 2005.
"They had my number last year," he said. "It definitely doesn't hurt when you know these guys pretty well, but they know me also."
Nothing of that sort seems to matter against the Nationals these days. They appeared headed for their third shutout in four games until Alfonso Soriano's solo shot off Benson in the eighth, his 14th homer.
"The entire lineup is not doing the job right now offensively. It hasn't for some time," Nationals manager Frank Robinson said. "It's not what the pitcher's doing. It's what we're not doing."
Benson gave up five hits, with two walks and three strikeouts, improving to 5-1 in his last six starts.
"He threw strikes and hit his spots," Washington's Marlon Byrd said. "He did it all night."
Five Orioles each drove in one run, and third baseman Melvin Mora delivered three singles, hours after a news conference in Baltimore to announce his $25 million, three-year contract extension.
Washington's RFK Stadium is about 35 miles from Oriole Park at Camden Yards, making Baltimore's players pleased to be able to head to their homes during the three-game "road" series. But there wasn't all that much buzz among the crowd of 30,320, more than 16,000 shy of capacity -- even if shortly before the first pitch, the PA announcer intoned: "Let the 'Battle of the Beltway' begin!"
As Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo put it: "Well, I didn't think it was electric. It was OK."
The locals had plenty of opportunities to jeer as the Nationals dropped to 3-11 at home, including two errors and reliever Felix Rodriguez's three runs allowed in 1 1/3 innings.
Until Rodriguez entered, Washington kept it close thanks to starter Mike O'Connor (2-2). He was hit by a line drive on his pitching shoulder in the fourth inning but stayed in, allowing two runs and six hits over six innings
"I thought there was no way he could continue," Robinson said. "He's a real gutty kid."
Rodriguez gave up RBI hits by Jeff Conine and Ramon Hernandez in the seventh, making it 4-0. An inning later, Patterson singled, stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error by catcher Wiki Gonzalez, then scored on Ed Rogers' RBI single.
"That was almost like lights out," Robinson said. "You don't give up, but you've got a tremendous hill to climb."
Robinson played for the Orioles when they used to face the Washington Senators; the clubs met 350 times from 1954-71. He said Orioles-Senators never really felt like a rivalry - and this new edition might not, either, for some time.
"It's something that has to be built up over the years, and both these clubs have to be competitive and there has to be some interest, there has to be some nastiness between the two teams, a couple knockdown brawls, whatever," Robinson said.
"There has to be some ingredients put into the pot and stir it up to make it a rivalry."
The closest to that sort of thing came in the eighth, when Rodriguez hit Miguel Tejada in the hip, loading the bases. Two innings earlier, Benson had thrown Ryan Zimmerman an 0-2 pitch up-and-in, forcing the Nationals' rookie to spin out of the way -- and drawing loud grumbling from some home fans.
Every Orioles starter had at least one hit or RBI except Kevin Millar, who knows a thing or two about a big baseball rivalry from his days in the Red Sox-Yankees fray.
Asked what would turn Baltimore-Washington into something significant, Miller offered a simple answer.
"Winning. You've got to win. Nobody's interested in two teams that aren't winning," Millar said. "Once you throw winning into the equation, it becomes a rivalry."
- After the game, Washington optioned OF Ryan Church to Double-A Harrisburg and planned to call up OF Alex Escobar.
- Rogers went 2-for-6, his first multi-hit game in the majors.
- Nationals OF Jose Guillen (right hamstring) sat out a second consecutive game.